Mixing alcohol and caffeine is hardly a new concept, but a rash of cases involving students and others who landed at hospitals after drinking beverages that combine the two in a single large can has alarmed college and health officials around the country.

The drinks are dangerous, doctors say, because the caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, keeping consumers from realizing just how intoxicated they are.

A brand called Four Loko — a fruit-flavored malt beverage that has an alcohol content of 12 percent and as much caffeine as a cup of coffee — has come under particular scrutiny after students who drank it this fall at Ramapo College in New Jersey and Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., ended up in emergency rooms, some with high levels of alcohol poisoning.

"This is one of the most dangerous new alcohol concoctions I have ever seen," said Dr. Michael Reihart, an emergency room doctor at Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pa., who said he had treated more than a dozen teenagers and adults over the last three months who had been brought there after drinking Four Loko. "It's a recipe for disaster because your body's natural defense is to get sleepy and not want to drink, but in this case you're tricking the body with the caffeine."

Source: New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/us/27drink.html